published in The New York Observer. January 26, 2010
Will you pay to read your news online once it’s no longer free? It’s the question everyone in the media’s asking since Rupert Murdoch announced that News Corporation would soon put an end to the ‘philistine phase of the digital age’ and start charging for online content.
Consumer behaviour is hard to predict, so that question won’t be properly answered until the pay walls are erected. In the meantime, those seeking answers might be interested in this article on one of the first experiments of its type involving a large daily non-financial newspaper in the United States.
Here The New York Observer outlines what can only be described as the failed transition from free to paid content of the big Long Island daily, Newsday. Three months after the pay wall went up Newsday’s website managed to attract only 35 new subscribers.
With the future of journalism tied to the business models that media companies adopt, the Newsday experience makes for sobering reading along with recent surveys that have found most consumers don’t intend to pay for online content. While Newsday’s owners sought to put a positive spin on the figures in their explanations, the paper has shed jobs and asked journalists to take a pay cut.